Understanding the Role of Values in Challenging Gender Stereotypes in Sports with Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala the First Sri Lankan to Summit Mount Everest
By Shannon Razack The Values4all project hosted its second webinar as part of the Values Ambassadors Q&A series, with Ms. Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala who spoke on the importance of shared values in life, through her experience climbing Mount Everest. It was a thrilling experience to hear her speak of her journey as the first Sri Lankan to summit Mount Everest. Ms. Kuru-Utumpala recounted in detail what it was like to climb the tallest mountain in the world. From what she wore, the food she ate, the team she climbed up with, to the technicalities of mountain climbing. Through this webinar, she shared her mountaineering journey with 58 youth facilitators. Just as she spoke about the exciting aspects of climbing Mount Everest, she also recounted the harsh weather conditions of the Himalayas and how it was both mentally and physically challenging to accomplish her feat. Ms. Kuru-Utumpala also shared the many ways in which mountaineering had taught her important values in life. A lively Q&A session followed where youth facilitators were eager to know more about mountaineering, as well as how Ms. Kuru-Utumpala had used values to face challenges that came her way. Two values which she emphasized on were teamwork and determination. Ms. Kuru-Utumpala spoke of the importance of working as a team and shared that working with her mountaineering partner, Mr. Johann Peries, along with the other mountaineers helped them collectively overcome challenges. Ms. Kuru-Utumpala also discussed ways in which she overcame discouragement while recounting how she was relatively slower than the rest of her mountaineering group when climbing Mount Everest and how this often made her feel discouraged. She mentioned that it took a lot of determination and will power to not give in. Ms. Kuru-Utumpala also discussed the negative impacts of gender stereotypes in limiting opportunities for young girls. She recalled how she faced many challenges as a woman mountaineer. In her discussion Ms. Kuru-Utumpala encouraged young girls to strive to achieve their dreams and challenge gender stereotypes that constrain their opportunities. Participants were keen to understand the scope for women in mountaineering, and sports that are often stereotyped as dominantly more suitable for males. She emphasized on the need for society to give equal opportunities for both young men and young women to realize their dreams and ambitions. Ms. Kuru-Utumpala also spoke of her ambition and how she worked towards preparing for her Mount Everest climb over a number of years. She highlighted the importance of preparation and determination. She stressed that it is important to take small steps everyday towards achieving our goals. Ms. Kuru-Utumpala recalled that at times when she felt like giving up during her ascent to Mount Everest, she reminded herself of her inspiration behind climbing Mount Everest. She advised the youth facilitators to take one day at a time and gradually work towards their goals in life. Ms. Kuru-Utumpala’s session stirred an interest in participants on mountaineering opportunities in Sri Lanka as well as inspired youth to work towards achieving their goals. The youth facilitators were very grateful for the opportunity to meet Ms. Kuru-Utumpala who they referred to as an inspiration to them all.